Discovery of Melanocortin Ligands via a Double Simultaneous Substitution Strategy Based on the Ac-His-DPhe-Arg-Trp-NH2 Template

Aleksandar Todorovic, Cody J. Lensing, Jerry Ryan Holder, Joseph W. Scott, Nicholas B. Sorensen, Carrie Haskell-Luevano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The melanocortin system regulates an array of diverse physiological functions including pigmentation, feeding behavior, energy homeostasis, cardiovascular regulation, sexual function, and steroidogenesis. Endogenous melanocortin agonist ligands all possess the minimal messaging tetrapeptide sequence His-Phe-Arg-Trp. Based on this endogenous sequence, the Ac-His1-dPhe2-Arg3-Trp4-NH2 tetrapeptide has previously been shown to be a useful scaffold when utilizing traditional positional scanning approaches to modify activity at the various melanocortin receptors (MC1-5R). The study reported herein was undertaken to evaluate a double simultaneous substitution strategy as an approach to further diversify the Ac-His1-dPhe2-Arg3-Trp4-NH2 tetrapeptide with concurrent introduction of natural and unnatural amino acids at positions 1, 2, or 4, as well as an octanoyl residue at the N-terminus. The designed library includes the following combinations: (A) double simultaneous substitution at capping group position (Ac) together with position 1, 2, or 4, (B) double simultaneous substitution at positions 1 and 2, (C) double simultaneous substitution at positions 1 and 4, and (D) double simultaneous substitution at positions 2 and 4. Several lead ligands with unique pharmacologies were discovered in the current study including antagonists targeting the neuronal mMC3R with minimal agonist activity and ligands with selective profiles for the various melanocortin subtypes. The results suggest that the double simultaneous substitution strategy is a suitable approach in altering melanocortin receptor potency or selectivity or converting agonists into antagonists and vice versa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2753-2766
Number of pages14
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 21 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by NIH Grants RO1-DK57080 and R01DK091906 (C.H.-L.). A.T. was a recipient of the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. C.J.L. was provided support from the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy Olsteins Graduate Fellowship. We also acknowledge the receipt of a 2017 Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund Award.


  • MC5R
  • SAR
  • alpha-MSH
  • melanotropin
  • selective ligands

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